To accommodate busy and professional students, some universities offer online liberal arts degree or related interdisciplinary programs. Online graduate degrees in liberal arts often provide a broad foundation in multiple topics. Coursework could include areas such as communications, economics, political science, sociology, philosophy, literature and the humanities. Because of the breadth of most programs, students may develop a grasp of cultures, events and concepts from several points of view. And, you may pursue an academic experience that is driven by your interests in the subjects you most enjoy.
written by Rana Waxman
An online liberal arts degree may provide students with two levels of flexibility. On the one hand, online students may hone their interests based on the classes they select. In many schools, students are paired with an advisor. He or she may help them tailor their program to align with intellectual curiosity, professional goals, and/or the desire to research an issue in-depth. This can be important, especially where final projects are concerned. Rather than a string of courses, most liberal arts graduate programs entail some type of capstone or dissertation where students are asked to synthesize what they have learned.
Another level of flexibility is that distance learners may be able to study from wherever they are (have laptop will travel) and whenever they have time. Between universities, liberal arts degree online programs are formatted differently. But, when a program is 100% online, it usually means no commute. Instead, you work inside a course management system to complete assignments and interact with instructors and classmates. There may be due dates for course work, and you may be asked to comment on what you have read at specific intervals, but log in times may be up to each person.
Online students communicate with their instructors and classmates through various digital tools. These might include dynamic online discussion boards, group work, and possibly, live online events. Some online liberal arts degree programs may entail a brief residency as well, but this would be stipulated ahead of time.
Soft skills are things like being able to effectively communicate, reason through problems, or think outside the box. Liberal arts, per the ancient Greeks, help to form well-rounded citizens who can critically analyze an issue, and form informed opinions. These talents may be really welcome in the workplace.i
DID YOU KNOW? “Liberal arts majors who are passionate about their studies are at an advantage in the job market, experts say.” i
Distinct from professional and technical subjects, “liberal arts” might refer to academic subjects such as literature, philosophy, mathematics, social and physical sciences. ii An online liberal arts program may touch on several of the below subject areas.
The levels of online liberal arts degree programs include graduate certificates, masters and doctorate awards. Some programs do provide an overall exploration of liberal arts and humanities topics, but others focus on a single theme. Keep these categories in mind so that you can narrow down your options and find an online liberal arts degree that mirrors your needs.
An online graduate certificate in liberal arts and humanities may help students ‘round out’ their education, prepare for a masters degree, or expand their expertise. Most programs are designed to target a single topic in around five courses, although this will vary. This means that a full-time student may need less than one year to complete the requirements. Some examples of graduate certificates in liberal arts that students might earn online follow.
Students who are drawn to economic modeling, forecasting and analysis may want to enhance their knowledge through an online Post-Masters Certificate in Quantitative Methods. This type of program may entail about four courses, and is intended for students who hold a masters degree in Economics or Statistics and want to update their knowledge. Students may have some freedom to choose their courses. As a result, they may be able to fill in some gaps or expand knowledge in cost-benefit analysis, financial econometrics or macroeconomics.
An online graduate certificate in Public Relations may help the working professional develop their grasp of key concepts. Some programs of this nature may involve a few core courses in which the principles of public relations are covered. Other classes are likely to discuss topics such as client needs, target audiences and how to effectively deal with PR crises. Students may also acquire the skills to write press releases and other types of communication. In addition, electives may help students fine tune their niche, whether through courses in branding, communication law, graphic design, or media relations.
The online graduate certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) may introduce students to creative strategy for digital and traditional media. Coursework is likely to highlight some of key aspects of modern marketing campaigns. Brand analysis, target audience, public relations, social media and paid media campaigns are some possible topics of study.
Online masters degrees in liberal arts and humanities provide the next level of education to students with an undergraduate degree. Students can expect to take courses that are more focused than they are general, and where both theory and application are explored.
The online master of Liberal Arts (MLA) degree is an example of an integrative program. Prerequisites for this type of degree can include a bachelors degree from an accredited university with a minimum of 3.0 GPA.
While each university puts forth its own program requirements, the MLA degree may require students to take about ten courses. One of these might be an interdisciplinary core course. This course may have a set theme and may be designed by faculty, based on their interests and book choices. The theme may be to familiarize students with the breadth of the liberal arts. As a result, students might explore topics in psychology and literature, poetry, science fiction and the visual arts.
Along with this, students may take multiple electives, and a capstone. These electives may give students a chance to explore diverse fields of study. History, religion, literature, philosophy, political science, the humanities, music, art history and the performing arts are some examples. Finally, the capstone is designed to encourage students to assimilate their course work in the program. It often comes at the end of a student’s program, and students may have a choice when it comes to the type of final project they put forth. For instance, it could be a portfolio of written work or an independent written project.
Like the Master of Liberal Arts, an online MA in cross-disciplinary studies (MACS) may meet the needs of learners who seek a broader course of study and want the elements of a self-designed program. This type of program makes use of a multidisciplinary approach to address modern social issues and human challenges, so students may get both theory and hands-on practice. Some students, especially those who want to continue into a PhD program, might opt to write a masters thesis. MACS students may also have to work at a final portfolio project.
In some universities, online MA students may be expected to complete about eleven courses that includes core classes, practicums and a multiple credit concentration track. These areas of emphasis might include Culture and Society, Health and Society, Education and Society or Information Systems and Society. Core courses could address systems theories, research design and theories of conflict and peace.
An online Masters in Strategic Communication may help students to develop several skills. Among them, the ability to craft persuasive messages, plan campaigns, and effectively target different audiences.
The online master of arts in History is often designed for history students with a wide variety of interests, and who may continue to Ph.D. work in history. Many programs offer room to choose an area of emphasis. For instance, military history online students may take courses in global military history, military theory and the effects on warfare.
An online master of arts in Global Studies is likely to tackle cross cultural topics. Some courses may discuss the biblical and theological basis for global involvement. This may provide a basis for cross-cultural communication. Students may develop insight into diverse cultures and worldviews, world religions, the contexts for how differences evolve, and current global trends.
The online masters in Computational Linguistics, Analytics, Search and Informatics (CLASIC) is an interdisciplinary program. Coursework is likely a blend of linguistics theory and computer science. This may give students insight into how information is processed and topics such as text analytics and data-driven linguistics.
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Liberal Arts and Humanities programs are research degrees where students may be exposed to theory and independent study. Applicants may need a masters degree and to furnish a sample of past written work or research.
Due to the nature of a PhD and the strong emphasis placed on research methods and design, students often choose one topic as an anchor for their queries. And, through their practice of research, students may generate new insight or reformulate an existing theory, to contribute to their field of study.
The online PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies is often suited to the candidate whose research interests don’t fit into just one field of study. Instead, an in-depth study of several selected fields takes place wherein the ways they intersect may form the basis for a dissertation. As an example, students who pursue a PhD with a major in Humanities and Culture might take courses in social and political philosophy, history, religious studies, literature, and aesthetics. These courses may be examined from the lens of how they play a role in issues of social justice and cultural differences.
An online PhD in Education (PhD-Ed) with a focus in general education is a terminal research degree in education. It is designed to prepare educators to teach multiple subjects. Distance learners who pursue their PhD in education and major in general education are typically able to mix disciplines. For instance, they may take courses in e-learning, lesson design, international education or learning analytics. Along with a strong base of theory, students may conduct research in and about colleges, PK-12 schools and non-profits.
The online PhD in Organizational Development and Leadership, Sport, Fitness, and Wellness Management program is a terminal research degree in psychology. Coursework for this type of program is likely to be extensive and topics may draw from multiple disciplines. Among these: behavior and performance, organizational change, motivation, business ethics and management, marketing, law, and finance for the fitness industry. Students may also have to take courses in personality assessment, research design and advanced statistics.
An online PhD in Transformative Studies may urge students to conduct trans-disciplinary research in topics they are passionate about. Within this type of program, students may have the opportunity to mix scholarship, creativity and self-inquiry. Some students may choose to focus on Consciousness Studies which explores the field from the lenses of cognitive science, neuroscience, cross-cultural studies, existential-phenomenological methodologies, and other related disciplines. For this area of emphasis, students may have to take required courses, elective courses, and choose a dissertation topic that reflects their interest in consciousness.
Many of the traditional and online universities with online liberal arts degree programs are regionally accredited. Accredition may speak to whether an institution is financially stable, has real instructors and courses and other important factors. For many, this type of approval may make a difference. Some schools may also have secondary accreditions that speak to specific areas of study. Follow up with schools to learn more.
Take your intellectual curiosity to the next level. To find the online liberal arts degree that lines up with your personal and professional goals, follow these next steps. Choose the subject you want to earn your degree in (e.g. liberal arts and sciences, economics, writing or history). Then, select the degree level you want to work towards (certificate, masters, doctorate). This will generate a list of programs that you can easily read about and compare. Last, but not least, fill out the on-page form to connect with the providers. Take the next step now!
[i] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2007/winter/art01.pdf | [ii] en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/liberal_arts